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July2007
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This Land Is Your Land!

So sang Woody Guthrie, the influential composer of a song he wrote to address what he saw as an unequal distribution of wealth in America. Guthrie (1912-1967) was raised in rural Oklahoma and lived through the Great Depression. The devastating economic times he observed while growing up profoundly affected his music. Guthrie wrote the song in 1940 and recorded it in 1944. He originally called it "God Bless America for Me," but during the recording session he changed the last line of each verse to "This land was made for you and me." Since then, singers who have recorded the song include Bing Crosby, Judy Collins, Harry Belafonte, Pete Seeger, Fred Waring and the Limeliters.

Woody Guthrie, half-length portrait, seated, facing front, playing a guitar that has a sticker attached reading: This Machine Kills Fascists Try a Yankee Doodle Cocktail

You can celebrate Independence Day this month by reading and listening to this and many more songs on the "Patriotic Melodies" Web site, such as "Yankee Doodle," performed by the U.S. Navy Band; "God Bless America" by its best-known interpreter, Kate Smith; and "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again," by the Airforce Band of Liberty of Boston.

Declare your independence in the "Drafting the Documents" exhibition, which features such treasures from the Library as Thomas Jefferson's "rough draft" of the Declaration of Independence. This milestone in American history shows the evolution of the text from the initial composition draft by Jefferson to the final text adopted by Congress on the morning of July 4, 1776.

In "Today in History" for July 4 you will read that, although Philadelphians marked the first anniversary of American independence with a spontaneous celebration, observing Independence Day only became traditional after the War of 1812. Soon, events such as the ground-breaking ceremonies for the Erie Canal and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad were scheduled to coincide with July 4th festivities.

Since 1963, a Fourth of July Naturalization Ceremony has been held at Jefferson's home, called Monticello, in Charlottesville, Va. The event was one of more than 1,000 Local Legacies that were donated to the American Folklife Center in 2000 to honor the bicentennial of the Library. Every state and the District of Columbia participated, so you can read about your state's projects at the Local Legacies Project Listing page.


A. Al Aumuller, [Woody Guthrie, half-length portrait, seated, facing front, playing a guitar that has a sticker attached reading: This Machine Kills Fascists], 1943. From New York World telegram & Sun Collection, Prints and Photographs Division. Call No.: NYWTS - BIOG--Guthrie, Woody--Radio--Folk Singer [item] [P&P]; Reproduction No.: LC-USZ62-130859 (b&w film copy neg.).

B. Try a Yankee Doodle Cocktail - New! Novel! Different! — "Follow the Parade" : Now at Hollywood Playhouse," created for the Federal Art Project between 1936 and 1941. Prints and Photographs Division. Call No.: POS - WPA - CA .01 .F654, no. 1; Reproduction No.: LC-USZC2-5150 DLC (color film copy slide).